Moral authority of juries: A forgotten aspect of citizenship

Mary B Beganyi, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


This thesis examines the ethical and historical foundations for a Fully Informed Jury Amendment, legislation that recognizes the "nullification" power of the jury. The ethical discussion focuses on the dual role of the jury deliberation process paralleling the distinction between natural law and legalism. Hobbesian equity is contrasted with Aristotelian equity to further discussion of the ethical rationale for acknowledging a juror's duty to act according to his conscience for the sake of justice. The historical tradition of "trial by jury" as a political process is traced from its inception by Henry II through the present with emphasis on the jury's function as a moral check on government. It is advocated that legal protection be extended to the right of citizens to exercise the "nullification" power in order to maintain a highly regarded system of law based on equity and founded on the moral integrity of its citizens.